Food safety keeps holidays happy

Tobie Blanchard  |  11/23/2015 10:36:05 PM

turkey illustration

News Release Distributed 11/23/15

BATON ROUGE, La. – Families and friends gather during the holidays to share stories, laughter and, of course, food. LSU AgCenter food safety specialist Wenqing Xu said cooks also should make it a goal this year to share good food safety practices.

“Thanksgiving dinner – one of the most important meals of the year – deserves a delicious and safely prepared turkey,” Xu said.

Turkey, as a type of poultry, requires a higher cooking temperature than other meats – to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, Xu said. Cooking stuffing inside the turkey makes it more difficult to cook the bird evenly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when preparing a turkey, be aware of the four main safety issues: thawing, preparing, stuffing and cooking to the appropriate temperature. Xu offers these guidelines:

– Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator or cold water instead of at room temperature. Keep in mind that the “temperature danger zone” is between 40 and 140 degrees. During this temperature range, foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly.

– Try your best to prevent cross contamination because bacteria on the turkey can be transferred to other foods through your hands, utensils and kitchen surfaces.

– After working with raw turkey, always clean your hands and sanitize utensils and work surfaces before preparing other foods.

– When cooking, always use a thermometer to check the doneness of the turkey instead of using a timer or the visual appearance. Make sure the center of the turkey or stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Many people enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers for the next few days.

“Before digging in your refrigerator for more turkey, gravy or mashed potatoes, make sure you know that the leftovers have been properly handled, chilled and stored,” Xu said.

Leftovers should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours before you put them away. When reheating, heat them to 165 degrees. Soups, sauces and gravy should be brought to a boil.

Consumers who have questions about buying, storing, preparing and cooking a turkey can call the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline. They have answered more than three million calls in the past 30 years. The service is even open on Thanksgiving Day. The hotline is 888-MPHotline (888-674-6854) between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Central time on weekdays.

Tobie Blanchard
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